My name is Paul and come from a little town in Abitibi called Senneterre. I grew up with my family, my parents and my eight brothers and sisters. My dad died when I was six years old and this was when we moved to Lac Simon near Val d’Or, a community in the Anishnabe Nation.
In Lac Simon, I saw and experienced a lot of violence. Revenge between families and violence were very present during my childhood. In my case, I was hit by my mother and abused by a man in my teenage years. It was at this time of my life that I begin to commit some minor crimes. I stole things, and partied hard near my community. I was the star delinquent!
I went to La Porte-du-Nord high school in Chibougamau and followed the job-oriented training program. I learned trades such as mechanics, welding and other manual labour skills. I really liked it because I did not just learn, I also lived with a non-Indigenous family. It is good experience for me to live with Quebecers as I was going to school. This gave me a break from all the stuff my mom asked me to do, and the difficulties that I was having with her.
I decided to leave Lac Simon when I was 20 years old. I was tired of being treated badly. In addition, because of the thefts and other offenses, I had the impression that I was not appreciated anymore by the members of my community. I left for Montreal, even if I heard that it was dangerous. In the beginning, I lived at my cousin’s place, but it was not easy to for me to quit the way of life I had been living for several years. So, I continued to do petty crimes here and there. I was still young when I met a woman, now my ex-wife with whom I have kids. But, because of our difficult relationship and because of my trips to prison, I could not stay with them. I was too delinquent, not responsible, and my life was a mess. I knew that I would never go back to Lac Simon. I did not want to relive the events of the past, and I did not want to risk hurting anyone. I had several friends that had almost the same life story as I had, and they committed suicide. To return to the environment of my community, would bring back all those memories and I did not want that.
I first heard of PAQ in 2004, before the opening of the shelter. Some workers from the YMCA informed me that a shelter for Indigenous people would soon open its doors. In the beginning, I was not really interested to go there because I still was in my bubble, in my life of delinquency. But when I started to come to the shelter, I liked that it was only for Indigenous people. I felt secure and was proud of my people. When PAQ opened, I felt the kindness and the generosity there, and this helped. But it was not always easy to respect the measures and rules of PAQ.
PAQ helped me a lot. Around five years ago, I stopped drinking. Also, coming at PAQ allowed me to get out of my bubble, and this was not easy. But I know that I still have some work to do. The intervention workers and the caseworkers have helped me to improve some aspects of my life. What I particularly like is that PAQ is a community, where everybody knows everybody. PAQ also helps Indigenous people to find an identity and have a source of human warmth. This helps me a lot, has given some direction to my life, and has brought some light into my life and my garden.
I have a specific objective that I wish to achieve: to obtain wisdom. Thanks to the teachings of my mother, I am really connected with spirituality and it is something that I am proud of. For me, wisdom is something big and strong, it is a feeling of accomplishment and pride. I speak often to the sky, and to the creator, and this spirituality gives me some perseverance to carry on with my life. I am also really connected with nature and it is important for me to see the life with our own eyes. With your eyes, if you are able to see the true life, the gift that life gives us, the nature, the light, the wind, and everything you see, it calls our Indigenous ways in the past. I am proud of myself now, even if I have not gained wisdom yet. I have my own apartment, I am part of the cleaning brigade of PAQ, and I am grandfather. I am proud of my achievements.
I have many hopes for the Indigenous community of Montreal and for PAQ participants. I would hope that people who use the shelter could be more mature, wiser. To help with this, it would be nice to have an elder who can give love to all these people. It’s important that residents here have a model of their culture, of their past. It is really important for me and it is what I wish for other residents of PAQ. I would also want that Indigenous people have another chance, and that they give themselves another chance. I would like more respect, but mostly that Indigenous people find their identities and feel proud.